Why is euro inflation so low?
Jean-Pierre Landau 02 December 2014
Eurozone inflation has been persistently declining for almost a year, and constantly undershooting forecasts. Building on existing research, this column explores the conjecture that low inflation in the Eurozone results from an excess demand for safe assets. If true, this conjecture would have definite policy implications. Getting out of such a ‘safety trap’ would necessitate fiscal or non-conventional monetary policies tailored to temporarily take risk away from private balance sheets.
Inflation in the Eurozone stood at 0.4% (year on year) in November. It has been persistently declining for almost a year, and constantly undershooting forecasts. The Eurozone is now clearly diverging from many advanced economies, where inflation is either on the rise – albeit at moderate levels – as in the US, or, when falling, still remaining close to target, as the UK.
Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
inflation, eurozone, safe assets, safety trap, risk aversion, disinflation, exchange rates, interest rates, liquidity trap, zero lower bound, monetary policy, public debt, Eurozone crisis, Central Banks, ECB, quantitative easing, long-term refinancing operations, unconventional monetary policy, liquidity, asset-backed securities, securitisation, debt sustainability, fiscal space, fiscal capacity, balance sheets
A safe asset for Eurozone QE: A proposal
Luis Garicano, Lucrezia Reichlin 14 November 2014
The ECB seems to be edging towards QE, but faces a quandary on what to buy. This proposal suggests that the ECB buy ‘Safe Market Bonds’. These would be synthetic bonds formed by the senior tranches of EZ national bonds combined in GDP-weighted proportions. The ECB would merely announce the features of the synthetic bonds it will purchase. The market would create the bonds in response to this announcement, thus avoiding new EZ-level institutions or funds.
As Europe moves closer to deflation, the ECB is gradually inching towards outright quantitative easing (QE) – increasing the monetary base through purchases of government bonds (Draghi 2014). But undertaking such purchases confronts a problem. There is no Eurozone ‘government bond’ to purchase. Were the ECB to purchase the debt of all member countries, it would end up with a large amount of debt on its balance sheet, making it impossible for a country to default without triggering very large redistribution.
Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
Eurozone QE, Safe Market Bonds, ECB, quantitative easing, unconventional monetary policy, diabolic loop, doom loop, sovereign debt, safe assets, savings glut, risk weights, bank capital
How to climb a mountain with both hands tied
Jean Pisani-Ferry 07 November 2014
A triple-dip recession in the Eurozone is now a distinct possibility. This column argues that additional monetary stimulus is unlikely to be effective, that the scope for further fiscal stimulus is limited, and that some structural reforms may actually hurt growth in the short run by adding to disinflationary pressures in a liquidity trap. The author advocates using tax incentives and tighter regulations to encourage firms to replace environmentally inefficient capital.
Against the background of lacklustre global demand, economic growth in Europe has weakened again. In the Eurozone, a third recession in less than seven years is a distinct possibility. Yet economic policy looks powerless. On the monetary side, although the ECB may still embark on a genuine programme of quantitative easing, such action is unlikely to deliver a major boost because the benchmark 10-year government bonds already yield just 1%.
Environment EU policies Macroeconomic policy Microeconomic regulation
Europe, eurozone, recession, stimulus, monetary policy, quantitative easing, fiscal policy, structural reforms, labour market reforms, liquidity trap, investment, Cash for clunkers, scrapping subsidies, environment, regulation, emissions standards
Helicopter money: The best policy to address high public debt and deflation
Biagio Bossone, Thomas Fazi, Richard Wood 01 October 2014
High debt and deflation have afflicted Japan, the Eurozone, and the US. However, the monetary and fiscal policies implemented so far have been disappointing. This column discusses the importance of helicopter money in the form of overt monetary financing in addressing these problems. Overt money financing is the policy with the highest impact in raising demand and output without increasing public debt and interest rates.
The G20 leaders may well endorse a higher ‘growth target’ at their November meeting in Australia, but they will be incapable of agreeing to the monetary/fiscal policy combination that is required to substantially lift aggregate consumer demand and economic growth.
helicopter money, overt monetary financing, public debt, quantitative easing
Eurozone recovery: there are no shortcuts
Roberto Perotti 13 September 2014
There is a growing consensus that austerity is contributing to the Eurozone’s macroeconomic malaise, but also that spending cuts are needed in the long run to achieve fiscal sustainability. Some commentators have advocated a temporary tax cut financed by unsterilised ECB purchases of long-term public debt, accompanied by a commitment to future spending cuts. This column argues that such commitments are simply not credible – especially given the moral hazard problem created by central bank monetisation of debts.
The consensus is increasing that austerity has not worked – Europe stands on the edge of deflation and suffers from a deficit of demand. A recent VoxEU proposal (Giavazzi and Tabellini 2014) offers a solution that is widely shared on both sides of the Atlantic – all Eurozone countries should cut taxes simultaneously by 5% of GDP, and the ECB should buy the extra debt without sterilisation. This should be accompanied by a credible plan to reduce government spending in the future.
Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
austerity, eurozone, monetary policy, helicopter money, quantitative easing, QE, stimulus, fiscal consolidation, fiscal policy, spending cuts, fiscal sustainability, debt monetisation
Is the ECB doing QE?
Charles Wyplosz 12 September 2014
Last week, the ECB announced that it would begin purchasing securities backed by bank lending to households and firms. Whereas markets and the media have generally greeted this announcement with enthusiasm, this column identifies reasons for caution. Other central banks’ quantitative easing programmes have involved purchasing fixed amounts of securities according to a published schedule. In contrast, the ECB’s new policy is demand-driven, and will only be effective if it breaks the vicious circle of recession and negative credit growth.
The 4 September announcement by Chairman Mario Draghi has been greeted with enthusiasm by the markets and the media. It has been long awaited, and many believe that the ECB has finally delivered. This is not sure. The ECB intends to buy large amounts of securities backed by bank lending to households (mortgages) and to firms.
Exchange rates Financial markets Monetary policy
quantitative easing, QE, monetary policy, unconventional monetary policy, ECB, securitisation, bank lending, Europe, eurozone, Subprime, stress tests, deleveraging, recapitalisation, depreciation, exchange rates, euro, central banking
Quantifying the macroeconomic effects of large-scale asset purchases
Karl Walentin 11 September 2014
Central banks have resorted to various unconventional monetary policy tools since the onset of the Global Crisis. This column focuses on the macroeconomic effects of the Federal Reserve’s large-scale purchases of mortgage-backed securities – in particular, through reducing the ‘mortgage spread’ between interest rates on mortgages and government bonds at a given maturity. Although large-scale asset purchases are found to have substantial macroeconomic effects, they may not necessarily be the best policy tool at the zero lower bound.
Central banks have used various unconventional monetary policy tools since the onset of the financial crisis yet the debate continues regarding their efficiency. This column attempts to shed light on the ‘bang for the buck’, or the macroeconomic effects, of one such unconventional monetary policy – the Federal Reserve’s large-scale asset purchases of mortgage-backed securities employed during the Fed’s QE1 and QE3 programs.
Global crisis Monetary policy
monetary policy, unconventional monetary policy, large-scale asset purchases, central banking, financial crisis, Federal Reserve, quantitative easing, mortgage-backed securities, term premia, zero lower bound, interest rates, US, UK, Sweden, mortgages, global crisis
To exit the Great Recession, central banks must adapt their policies and models
Marcus Miller, Lei Zhang 10 September 2014
During the Great Moderation, inflation targeting with some form of Taylor rule became the norm at central banks. This column argues that the Global Crisis called for a new approach, and that the divergence in macroeconomic performance since then between the US and the UK on the one hand, and the Eurozone on the other, is partly attributable to monetary policy differences. The ECB’s model of the economy worked well during the Great Moderation, but is ill suited to understanding the Great Recession.
“Practical men…are usually the slaves…[of] some academic scribbler of a few years back” – John Maynard Keynes.
For monetary policy to be most effective, Michael Woodford emphasised the crucial importance of managing expectations. For this purpose, he advocated that central banks adopt explicit rules for setting interest rates to check inflation and recession, and went on to note that:
Global crisis Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
Taylor rule, forward guidance, great moderation, global crisis, Great Recession, quantitative easing, DSGE models, expectations, tapering, US, UK, Europe, eurozone, ECB, Bank of England, central banking, IMF, unconventional monetary policy
How to jumpstart the Eurozone economy
Francesco Giavazzi, Guido Tabellini 21 August 2014
The stagnating Eurozone economy requires policy action. This column argues that EZ leaders should agree a coordinated 5% tax cut, extension of budget deficit targets by 3 or 4 years, and issuance of long-term public debt to be purchased by the ECB without sterilisation.
The mantra is that once again it is up to the ECB to save the Eurozone. Quantitative easing is the last policy tool available to jumpstart the Eurozone economy. The longer the ECB waits before starting to buy government bonds, the further away will the recovery be. This analysis, however, overestimates the power of monetary policy.
Europe's nations and regions Macroeconomic policy
ECB, monetary policy, fiscal policy, quantitative easing, public debt, aggregate demand, Eurozone economy, stagnation
Identifying and quantifying monetary policy transmission through bank balance sheets
Kaoru Hosono, Daisuke Miyakawa 09 August 2014
In the wake of the Global Crisis, several central banks have adopted unconventional monetary policies. This column presents new evidence from Japan on the transmission of monetary policy through banks’ balance sheets. Overall, the evidence suggests that bank net worth affects loan supply, that the effect depends on monetary policy and economic growth, and that this bank balance sheet channel has a significant impact on firms’ financing and investment. Exiting from unconventional monetary policies when bank balance sheets are weak could thus have a severe adverse impact on investment.
How does monetary policy affect firm activities? While there is long-standing literature on this issue, the transmission mechanism of monetary policy is currently attracting renewed attention. The reason is that many central banks – including the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the ECB, and the Bank of Japan – have introduced unconventional monetary policies such as quantitative easing and credit easing in the wake of the Global Crisis, and sooner or later will have to exit from these policies.
Financial markets Global crisis Monetary policy
monetary policy, Japan, global crisis, quantitative easing, unconventional monetary policy, balance sheets, financial accelerator, credit easing, bank lending channel